This Christmas season conjures up a tale of two Joes

December 17, 2021

Philanthropy - The desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes. From its Greek roots, philanthropy literally means love of human beings.

On Aug. 13, 2018, a warm and sunny day – the kind that breeds optimism – two of my favorite Joes sat at an outside table at Arena’s in the Villages of Five Points. Joe Hudson and Joe Schell.

Both embody everything in the philanthropy definition above, and much more.

Native Delawareans, they love their state and its people. They love the state’s generally centrist bent, both always leaning politically toward less government and approving of the state’s historically deep-seated, laissez-faire approach to business dealings. Entrepreneurship, personal accountability, hard work, tenacity and gentlemanly charity toward neighbors are all part of their character.

Risk-takers too, whether goggled and behind the stick of crop-dusting airplanes as in Hudson’s case, or in the high-stakes world of investment banking as in Schell’s case. Both have succeeded financially, have enjoyed that sweet smell of success sung about by George Harrison in the Traveling Wilburys song, “Handle With Care.” And both have given generously of their time, money, wisdom and experience to a variety of initiatives that have raised the quality of life in Sussex County for thousands.

Hudson, as benefactor and longtime chairman of Beebe Healthcare’s board of directors, promoter and financial underwriter for Delaware Tech’s aviation program, and generous donor to countless other projects and causes.

Schell, as tireless champion, visionary and donor for the rapidly growing Sussex Academy public charter school in Georgetown and the nearby Sandhill Fields athletic complex.

There, Schell worked one of those special Delaware partnerships of public and private organizations and individuals to bring to fruition the development of the high-quality fields, trails and courts publicly available to all in Sussex.

Their financial donations in the many millions of dollars have not only helped grow these initiatives, but also helped to guarantee their long-term sustainability.

I had the honor of working with both men when they took on leadership roles for development of the Lewes Canalfront Park and Lewes Public Library, two entities like those mentioned above, that are contributing to the enjoyment, enlightenment, entertainment and good health of hundreds of thousands of Sussex residents and visitors.

All of that flowed through my brain on that August day three years ago when I saw the two men, cut from the same cloth, sitting outside at Arena’s. The scene deserved a photograph.

I mentioned some of this to Joe Hudson a couple of weeks back when I stopped by the Country Rest Home west of Greenwood where he is being well taken care of in his final years. Not a lot of it registered.

I like to think that this God-fearing and sober man has used his brain and faculties so thoroughly and well through his 91 years that they’re just about worn out. But the courteous good humor, the blue eyes that brighten when conversation lights on something fondly familiar, and his innate kindness remain completely intact.

Fortunately there’s a positive contagion about the two Joes and their charismatic personalities that has made them great role models for family members and hundreds of friends in their orbits.

No doubt the love so central to the holiday season caused all of this to come spilling out of my mind.

Though Joe looked a little bewildered when I rose from the easy chairs where we sat in the lobby, and made my way toward the Christmas tree-lighted doorway, he was still chuckling at a story he told me years ago.

It was about the time, when he was a kid, that one of the rabbits he had raised, slaughtered and skinned slipped from his hands into a pail of whitewash and soaked a bit before he fished it out. He said he cleaned it up as well as he could before wrapping it in newspaper and delivering it to the neighbor lady who had promised to buy it. The funny thing, he had told me, was that when next he saw the lady, who knew nothing of the whitewash, she told him it was the tastiest and tenderest rabbit she had ever had.  

I turned, said goodbye and Merry Christmas.

“See you next time, Joe.”

He raised his hand, gave me a little wave, smiled and said exactly what people who know Joe would expect him to say:



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